Malaysia has banned a translation of the Japanese Ultraman comic book because it refers to the action hero as ‘Allah’.
The Malay-edition of “Ultraman, The Ultra Power” contained elements that could ‘undermine public security and societal morals’, the country’s Home Ministry said in a statement Friday.
It said the popular comic book character is “idolized by many children” and so describing the lead character, Ultraman King, as Allah would “confuse Muslim children and damage their faith”.
A line in the comic book said Ultraman King “is considered and respected as Allah, or the Elder, to all ultra heroes”. Allah, the Arabic and Islamic word for God, is commonly used in the Malay language as the word for God.
The ministry, which is in charge of domestic security and censorship, said that Allah is holy for Muslims and warned that irresponsible use of the word could provoke the community and threaten public safety.
“The Ultraman character itself is not banned and only this edition is prohibited,” the ministry said. Anyone caught distributing the comic book could be jailed three years, it warned.
Around 60 per cent of Malaysia's 30 million people are Malay Muslims, for whom the government maintains Allah should be exclusively reserved.
The government's stand over the word Allah has sparked a controversy in this multi-racial Southeast Asian country, where many Malay-speaking Christians, which make up about 9 percent of the country's population, commonly use Allah to refer to God.
Religious tensions have risen in the past five years, particularly after the Catholic church challenged the government rules in court, seeking the right to use Allah in its weekly newspaper.
A lower court ruled in favour of the government last year. The Catholic church has since appealed to the country's highest court which said on Wednesday it will decide at a later date whether to hear the case.